A Report on Volunteer Symposium for the Upcoming Tokyo 2020

“Volunteer Symposium for the Upcoming Tokyo 2020: Exploring the Essence of Volunteerism” took place on Sunday, January 21, at Bellesalle Akihabara in Soto Kanda, Chiyoda-ku. About 1,300 people applied to participate in the event, which was attended by about 600 of them. The participants donated a total of 255 small electronic devices, including 96 mobile phones, to the collection box supporting “Tokyo 2020 Medal Project: Towards an Innovative Future for All.”

1. Welcome speech from the organizers (Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo)

Governor of Tokyo delivering a welcome speech

The governor opened the event with a speech saying: “Although athletes play leading roles, volunteers who offer themselves to support the Games may well be the key players in a true sense.” “Many people are willing to become volunteers. We will start the recruitment around summer, hoping to have as many participants as possible and join hands with all of you to help the Games carve their place in history,” she added.

2. Dialogue I: Viewpoints of recipients of hospitality

A scene from Dialogue I

They spoke about what they felt through their own activities and experiences.

Aya Terakawa (Sportscaster and Japanese Olympic swimmer at the Athens and London Games)
“All the volunteers were kind enough to talk to me immediately after they saw me in trouble. They always wore smiles and gave me power.” “I want them to help me concentrate before the competition. Picture taking and interaction are very welcome once the competition is over.” “I think the more sports you learn about, the more you can enjoy yourself.”

Shinji Negi (Japanese Paralympic wheelchair basketball player at the Sydney Games)
“Barriers do not exist in people with impairments themselves but in the domain of society. The sentiment and action of surrounding people help eliminate barriers. We can make friends to help each other.” “The extent of impairments varies among Paralympians. Don’t hesitate to ask what kind of support they need. Ask them as much as you want.”

3. Dialogue II: Viewpoints of providers of hospitality

A scene from Dialogue II

They talked about what they felt through their volunteering activities, citing anecdotes from such experiences.

Ms. Akashi (Tokyo Tourism Volunteer)
“It is important that you actively initiate a conversation with a smile.” “Embarrassment helps you grow day by day. You can’t produce more than you are capable of.” “Linguistic skills are important for sure, but I recommend you to prepare tidbits of information that will wow and awe people from abroad when you guide them.”

Students from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (who experienced volunteering at the Rio 2016 Games)
“It is important that you let out your feelings. Also react 1.5 times as much.” “At the Rio 2016 Games, I could realize that I was part of the Games operation. I made a lot of mistakes but I had a fun time out there.” “I had thought the Olympics were just a stage in a faraway world. But volunteering made me feel the Olympics closer and feel attached to them as well as helped expand my vision.”

Lou Oshiba (Actor, Comedian)
“There are many things you can do. I clean the toilets in a park near my home. And I feel a sense of accomplishment by doing so and this helps me expand my circle of friends. Just start doing what you can.” With this message, he started dancing with all participants in the audience to his eco-awareness song Mottainai and pumped up the atmosphere.

4. Panel discussion

A scene from the panel discussion

The panelists offered their views including what they expect of volunteers from the standpoints of recipients and providers of hospitality as well as their messages to the participants.

Aya Terakawa
The Olympics and Paralympic Games are a stage where athletes make their dreams come true. I want every volunteer to support them.” “I remember the time when I was in trouble, holding a baby at a station without an elevator and unable to climb up the stairs. Nobody came to help me out. Even if you won’t participate as volunteers, I hope you will help prevent this kind of thing from happening at Tokyo 2020. I myself want to help people in trouble.”

Shinji Negi
“I hope people will seize upon this opportunity to learn more about the Paralympics.” “Volunteers in other countries seem to enjoy themselves very much. I wish all volunteers here will enjoy themselves as well.”

Ms. Akashi (Tokyo Tourism Volunteer)
“Please join us and welcome guests from around the world.”

Students from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
“Volunteering provides lifelong memories. For your future. For your development. Just think of whatever motive or reason.” “Your smile make others smile. We want to share happiness and make the Games fun.” “If you have thought a little bit about becoming a volunteer, I want you to take a step forward.”

Lou Oshiba
“If we work on one thing together, it links our hearts. No problem if you don’t speak English. Let’s do it together with everyone. Together we go.”

A sense of unity permeated the venue and the symposium turned out to be filled with laughter.